I am the mother of four children. One girl and three boys. It occurred to me early on that since I didn’t have the example of a biological father growing up, I really had to think about what raising men meant. I became fascinated by the topic.
My boys do have a loving and present father in their lives and for that I am grateful. Who better to learn how to be a man from than a good and decent man, who loves you very much. But not having my father around made me want to work extra hard so that one day I can share three amazing men with the world.
Having three sons gives me multiple views into the creature that is male. All three of my sons are very different. Different personalities and interests. Different demeanors and outlooks. They are absolutely three individuals.
My oldest son has proved to be challenging. His strong will was first noted around age two. We could tell then that he would get things done and get them done his way. The characteristics that oftentimes reduced me to tears early on as a mother, will push him into being a great leader one day. He is reserved and skillfully observant. He is a thinker. He is probably the most sensitive of the bunch but he won’t let you see that side until you have earned his trust. And when he smiles, he means it with his whole heart.
My middle son is the pleaser of the family. He stands up for injustices when he sees them. His happy-go-lucky nature makes him a joy to be around. Since he was a baby, his smile is the first thing you notice, because he is always wearing it. He is very physical by nature, athletic and a go-getter. He is a worker. If he wants something done, he is going to get it done. He is helpful and kind. He is a model citizen. He is the first to help when he sees that someone needs a hand. His need for constant stimulation can make him exhausting but you will never be bored with him around.
My youngest son is an entertainer. He loves to sing and laugh. With him, what you see is what you get. He is not afraid to be himself. He is the most compassionate member of the family. He often worries about the plights of others. He is agreeable and jovial. He is affectionate and warm. The baby of the family is also a jokester. He lives to make others laugh. If my oldest son is strong-willed then the baby is a peacemaker. He will gladly put his own wants on the back-burner for the sake of the team. If there is a selfless member of this family, it is him.
Naturally as a mother, I see good and potential in all of my children. If your mother isn’t your number one fan, then who will be?
Maybe because I didn’t have a strong, loving father in my life, the journey from baby to man, in my own boys, became very significant to me. Maybe all of the hurt that I have felt, can be used for a purpose. The purpose of raising good men. As though, if I help raise good men, then maybe one day, some little girl won’t have to grow up without her father.
I don’t know my biological father so I cannot speak to what kind of man he is. Choosing not to be in a child’s life, in and of itself, does not deem you a bad person. I can love and support my children with everything that I have, and they still won’t be perfect. We are all human. Humans fall down and make mistakes.
Then it occurred to me that I parent the sexes differently. For my daughter, from the start, I wanted her to be strong and independent. Yet, I had never used those words when referring to my boys. But of course I want them to be those things, too.
I realized that was coming from a place of hurt, as well. I wanted my daughter to be strong and independent because I didn’t want her to ever feel that hurt. But she has a father. And he would never reject her.
I can speak from experience that opting out of letting people inside, is not the way to go. I spent a lot of years doing that. You can set yourself up for a miserable life. Instead of that lesson, I hope to teach all of my children that only the strong allow themselves be vulnerable. Because you need people. And getting hurt is part of being alive. Stuff just hurts sometimes. Life can be tough.
As a parent, I wonder on a daily basis if I am doing anything right. The thing about raising kids is that it takes years to see the fruits of your labor. We all try to take the good and the bad experiences of our own lives and use those to make us better. And especially better parents.
I think of myself as a survivor. I am tough. But having children made me vulnerable. And it made me think. Things that I had long ago swept under the rug are still very important factors in the way that I am raising my children. I never want to project anything onto them. But instead to use my past to be better.
I can’t say for sure, but I suspect I am doing a pretty okay job at this parenting gig. I have four amazing kids. They are growing up knowing that they are loved and that we will support them, no matter where life may take them.
As a mom, all I can really do is love them just enough every day. Just enough to remain in their hearts, long after I am gone.